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I. 1521— 1523. From the Edict of Worms to the death 

II. 1523— 1525. The Peasants' War 

III. 1525— 1547. The Reformation in the hands of the 

Princes. The Anabaptists. The Schmalkaldic 

IV. 1547—1555- From the Battle of Miihlberg to the 

Peace of Augsburg 









f'age 6. For rci^— 

^517—1522 read i<;2i — 

12. For 1C22 — 


522 1525 read 1^27. 















The Reformation has been so customarily regarded as a great 
religious impulse, bearing down all opposition and directing all the 
action of the age, that its political counterpart has often seemed 
in danger of being forgotten^<^he full meaning of the Reforma- 
tion has not been understoooby those to whom it has seemed a 
period of entirely religious progress or revolution, and by whom 
Its theological aspect has been regarded as its only vital one. No 
doubt the great movement received at this time its success f r >m 
the bold struggle begun and maintained against the corruptiuii, 
as well doctrinal as practical, which had obscured the true teach- 
ing of the Church, — and the attention of the earnest spirits who, 
in every age, strive for the reform of abuses, and the improvement 
of social life, was in this particularly directed to the reform of the 
body which should itself have been the preacher of enlightenment. 
But the necessity for some such revolution was to be found in 
every part of the body politic, and the theses of Luther were but 
the instruments by which the work was effected. 

Of course, though we recognise the importance of the political 
aspect of the Reformation, and regard the subject especially from 
that point of view, it would be impossible to treat at all of the age 
without a constant reference, direct or implied, to the religious 
element. ^^ 

The c^mencement of the Sixteenth Century is not merely an 
arbitrary division of time, but marks a real era in the history of 
Europe. If it can ever be said that one age passes definitely 
away at a certain period, and is succeeded by another, the agree- 
ment of historians to make this the end of the middle ages is 
natural and well founded. The most superficial study will teach 
us the real change effected by that marvellous birth of knowledge 
which seems to date from the time when Florence ceased to be 
free. It was a revolution that affected all countries, and those 
none the less surely where its influence prevailed in peace. The 
spirit of different nations made the impulse of the age their -own : 
what was the revival of Learning and the Arts in Italy was in 



Germany the New Birth of Religion and Morality. The Refer- 
Snnrof th/R''"'' '^^ counterpart, as it was in a sense the 
^T.T^\ u^ Renaissance. p\ glance at the state of Germany 
he country where we are parlicularly to examine the nature of 

can 7ZZT; "'i' "^""'^. '^''- ^' ^" ""i'^d nation, Germany 
powerful ni ""' '^" '""^ *° ''^^^ «^'^'«''- A number of 

Lknowle/Jed't.'' ""'"^ Pf"y '°'"'^'' ^"'l ^"-"^ important cities 
Roman F^n ^r'"?' ^"P-l^-^^^y °f the Head of the Holy 

ChrTstendnT h"-. K^^ ^'''^'^ ■''y ""^'^^ '^e nominal unity of 
t^hnstendom had been mamtained— the presumption that the 

z:zv::ir''r'''''' I'^^^i' - ^^e Lnds oTthe'Rit 

£.mperor as the ecclesiastical in those of the Roman Pontiff— was 
saw tir'l '"""'^ ^.'^^" "?-"• The time of the RenaLance 
on! andth7.T'rv°^"'r^^°'^^°'^"" ^"'P'^^ '"t° ^ Germanic 
been nriti V °' '^u'^ ''"""' ^^''^ '" P^«' ""'""^s had 
in con^sTiJuHnn °H '° "?"ch contest.^ A body so heterogeneous 
nto?n, f" r ''•'°,*'°'"'^ m interests could not settle down 
h. f J ^ "" °^ "."''^'^ ^="°"- H'he nobles were gradually losin- 
the feudal power by which they had held their position during he 

S refL'rm'ha'd l^f? It '""^ ''°^^ °''^^ ^'^'^^"'^ Ce'ntury all m afure^ 
GoltnBlu itruT r'' '"?.Pr""' P"^''^g«^ untouched. The 
Fourteenth kn^ ^^ remedied so many of the abuses of the 
riXsof h. KM?' '^"'u"°^ '""'^'^^'^ ^''h the most fatal of the 
Iffer thri H "°'^'''t>'.-''^« Fa«./...A/, by which any noble could, 
on another Ynd"" '", I ^°™ ^""^'' Fehdebrief, declare vva; 
andnTth ' ^"'^ P^o«ed to invade and devastate his country 

Germanv tUr H /\''' ''^°'^- ^'^^" ^^ ^'^'"^'^ber that in 
Lrermany the feudal inheritance was divided among the children 
of the late lord, and thus the land was constantly split up into a 

ofTuc^aliS^T'^^'^V^^" ""''^^^^-'^ the 'consequence: 
ot such a right belonging to the countless descendents of the once 

o^th t:\n "ht''"\ ^""^ 'T^ ^^^^^ °f 'he nobility consisted 
frnrn K ^ 'f' "^^^ ^^""^ ''ttle more than licensed brigands 

man'stfrwatS:. "° '"''"*^ ^^^ '^^^' ^"^ '" -^°- ^an^ds t 

Pelce^orfhl'' F^''''* °^ '^95 for the establishment of the Public 
Peace of the Empire was especially obnoxious, as it prohibited 
private war under the penalty of the ban of the Empire Even a 
the union'o°f'"""f "' this-amounting, in fact, to'no less han 
Sd no ?hnl IT °""'^''^ r'^ 'P'"t"^' excommunication- 
severftvt T' '""' l^' "°"^'^"' ^^^^s. From its very 

sclre^mw t^n """^'f/f °«^d 'o and it thus became rather a 
nrovolT. . r^' ''^'^■■.^^"t- The Aulic Council of Maximilian 
provoked constant opposition, and the dissension was universal 

» Vide Bryce's " Holy Roman Empire." 







f ^ 






throughout the land.' The Free Cities formed an important 
constituent in the Empire and still retained the greater part of 
their ancient power. In them could be seen the guild system in 
Its highest development, but their very independence laid them 
open to the attacks of the neighbouring lords, and more especially 
of the free knights, who were the natuml foes of their commerce 
and prosperity. Pin striking contrast to the freedom and happiness 
ot the higher class as a whole was the miserable condition of 
the peasantry, whose state was at this time more wretched in 
Germany than in any other country in Europe. Their position 
was little better than that of slaves, and against the oppression of 
their lords they had absolutely no remedy. Hence the end of the 
Fifteenth and the beginning of the Sixteenth Centuries were 
marked by continual insurrections, of which the most important 
will be sketched m this essay. An Emperor whose power was 
often merely nominal, princes whose position was extremely pre- 
carious a barbarous nobility, and a degraded peasantry are fitly 
paralleled in the ecclesiastical world by the tottering power of the 
I Papacy, an uninfluential Episcopacy, and an ignorant priesthood.* 
In every grade of the system the state of things was the same. 
1 he bishops were great temporal princes whose connection with 
the Church was, except as far as revenue was concerned, of the 
s hghtest. The abuses of the Middle Ages clung around their 
elec ion. They were appointed by the favour of the Emperor or 
the lesser sovereigns, in several cases by actual purchase of the 
sees sometimes when mere children. That they were totally 
unlit lor their office m most cases is at once evident: equally 
certain is it that they took little interest in and paid little atten- 
t{,?R K, *','''• The secular clergy were grossly ignorant : 

the Bible was unknown : scholasticism in its narrowest forms had 
taken the place of theological learning. The Friars, once the 
source whence the Church attained new life, had lost their in- 
fluence with their earnestness and practical piety. They were 
the butts of the people : the common books ridiculed and the 
tavern pictures caricatured them.'' Widespread, almost universal, 
was the corruption. Yet beneath stood the foundation, from 
which the moss that had grown over the holy stones was to be 
scraped, some broken pieces were to be cemented, some crazy 
corners pointed with wholesome mortar instead of base clay with 
which they were disgracefully patched up.« The means for the 

» Kohlrausch, Hist. Germ. ch. xv. 

ther7wasTrff ^^Z' ^^^°'l'^^ Lutheran and Calvinistic heresies were published, 
r^^Ir^T "°',^"y seventy m ecclesiastical judicatories, any discipline with 

o;:"\ol''Tc7lZt. -l-'f--- "-ning...-BelIarmine. Concio. /s. 

^ Erasmus, Colloq. *' Franciscani." 
« Bp. Hall, Contempl. B. xx. 12. 

B 2 




change were not far to seek. Communication between the 
different countries was much more easy than we are accustomed 
to imagine. Pilgrimages promoted travelHng to a very great 
extent,' and to and from Rome, the heart of the spiritual body, 
the tide of the devotees was constantly flowing. By such means 
the revival of learning which had begun in Italy was bemg con- 
veyed to other lands. But the light that was beginnmg to stream 
upon the world from the Italian Renaissance was not reflected m 
the German Church. There the clergy committed the fatal error 
of opposing the New Learning instead of welcoming it as a most 
valuable ally. The history of Reuchlin is but one of the many 
examples of this very short-sighted policy. Too ignorant to see 
how irresistible this new influence was they had no weapons with 
which to contend against it but those of trickery and superstition.^ 
The same vices that were to be seen in the political were 
prominent in the ecclesiastical system. Had the Church been 
less corrupt, the revolution would have been far more glorious, 
the reformation a bloodless one. As it was the convulsion was 
inevitable, and it remained to be seen whether a political or a 
religious change would be the first proclamation of the new order 
of things. As it happened the gaunlet was first flung down by 
an obscure Augustine Friar, famous to all time as Martin Luther. 
The agitation in the ecclesiastical world which followed the bold 
challenge of the Wittenberg doctor was not without its parallel 
in political action, and there is reason to believe that the oppor- 
tunity might have been used by Maximilian to consolidate his 
power at the expense of the Papacy had he not been occupied at 
that time in securing the succession of his grandson to the 
Empire.^ In this object he had not met with any apparent 
success^^ but his efforts were proved on his death not to have 
been unavailing, and when the time came Charles of Spain 
succeeded to an Empire in which everything was confusion- 
class fighting against class, without military or financial organisa- 
tion, with no supreme Court of Justice, and no Public Peace. 
Many fruitless speculations are suggested by the thought of how 
different might have been the course of events had Saxony at this 
time assumed the position for which she seemed naturally in- 
tended, and Frederic the Wise Elector become Frederic the 

7 For instance, we find that Henry VI. granted licenses for the exportation of 
2433 pilgrims in one year to the shrine of Saint James of Compostella. The- 

Wife of Bath too : — 

" And thries hadde sche ben at Jerusalem ; 
Sche hadde passed many a straunge streem ; 
At Rome sche hadde ben, and at Boloyne, 
In Galice, at seynt Jame, and at Coloyne." 

8 fr P- the Berne imposture. (Ruchat, Histoire de la Reformation en Suisse, 
vol VI. : Hottingen, Hist. Eccl. Helvet, tom. i. p. 330. Burnet's Travels). 

9 Ranke, Hist. Reform, in Germany, book ii. ch. 2. 

10 Guicciardini lib. 13, p. 15 : Histoire Gen. d'Allemagne par P. Barre tom. viii. 

p. 1081. 



Fourth of Germany. The progress of the Reformation under 
Austrian rule was very different to what it would have been under 
Saxon Emperors. But we are concerned with actual facts, and 
the policy of the new Emperor next claims our attention. By 
him the Reformation was viewed at first in a political light, and 
the changes which he contemplated 4n the constitution of the 
Empire were of a different nature to those which appeared to be 
the aim of the Reformers. The crushing of the nobility was an 
object of the greatest importance to the strength of the Imperial 
Power, and the new religious party had unfortunately connected 
itself with some of the worst remnants of a past age," — the 
attempts of the nobility to win back their old rights. Thus 
Charles was necessarily the enemy of their political connections, 
while his own position made him a firm ally of the Pope in the 
ecclesiastical war. Vain were the appeals of Seckingen and 
Hutten : the Emperor whom they expected to revive the glories 
of past times did not understand the dreams of the warrior and 
the poet. By the close of the Diet of Worms, and the famous 
Edict, which marked the result of the meeting, the temporal 
power was clearly declared to take its stand by the side of the 
Papacy against all the principles for which men rallied to the 
name of Luther. Well' might Hutten repeat his motto— " Alea 
jacta est " — for all hope of reconciliation was over when the 
political forces joined the theological combatants. 

11 Chauffour-Kestner " Etudes sur les Reformateurs du i6me Siecle." 




1^2 \ 

^'^^ Z 

The Edict of Worms marks an important point in the history 
of the Reformation. From this time the Lutheran party may be 
said to date its existence. All hope of an internal Reformation, 
effected by the Church herself, now appeared to be vain. It 
remained therefore to see what external bodies, if organised, could 
do by their action upon the political and religious government of 
the time. And now, at the outset of his career, the cause of 
Luther was exposed to great danger. Without some political aid 
the struggle seemed hopeless, but the whole prospects of the 
movement might be ruined by an alliance with the effete relics 
of a past age, or the equally anarchic outbreak of fanatic ardour. 
Had the Reformers joined the party of Franz von Seckingen in 
1523 the future of their cause would hardly have been more bright 
than if it had been connected with the wild rebellion of the 
oppressed peasants in 1525. At first, however, an alliance between 
the new religious impulse and the remains of feudal disorder 
seemed not improbable.^^ 

At the Diet of Worms a Council of Regency had been appointed 
to represent the Emperor during his absence in the Netherlands 
and in Spain. On his accession Charles had promised to 
establish a Council which was to revive the form of representative 
government which had been suggested in the past,^^ a scheme for 
which, based on the Regency Ordinance of 1500, was presented 
for his sanction. This, however, did not meet with his approval. 
He considered it derogatory to his dignity and full of danger to 
his authority, and in return placed before the Diet a scheme in 
which his own interests were far more fully represented. He 
wished to rule as Roman Emperor — the princes were now 
determined that he should be a German King. After much dis- 
cussion, in which the States were not inclined to yield anything of 
importance, a compromise was agreed upon by which the Em- 
peror maintained his authority and the States obtained a part in 
the National Government for which they had been striving for 
some time.^* The Council was composed of a lieutenant of the 
Kaiser as President, representatives of the Electors, of the Six 
Circles into which the German Empire was divided, and of the 

12 Arch. Young's Ulrich von Hutten, p. 140. 

13 In 1487, in 1495 and in 1500. 

1^ Ranke, book ii. ch. 4. 





States in rotation. Other political changes were introduced at this 
Diet into which it is not necessary to enter, but the whole of the 
alterations are striking proofs of the spirit which was awakening in 
secular as well as in religious affairs. For the moment the impulse 
which had burst out all over th# land for the Reformation of the 
Church and for the redress of ecclesiastical grievances and the 
abolition of ecclesiastical scandals seemed, in the mysterious 
absence — none knew where — of Luther, to lack a guide. But 
the spirit of Freedom showed itself at this time in the estab- 
lishment of the new representative system which, it might 
be hoped, would prove the basis of a firm and united govern- 
ment. The new Council contained a majority of men inclined 
to regard some enquiry into the questions raised by the 
Reformers as necessary. Some of its members were favourers 
of the Lutheran opinions. One of the most prominent was 
Frederic, Elector of Saxony, who had always extended his 
protection to Luther. This prince had many of the elements of a 
really great man. He was thoroughly acquainted with the history 
and necessities of the Empire : he was sagacious and diligent. 
He was a just and tolerant as well as a prudent and farseeing 
ruler. At one time it seemed as if he would be the successor of 
Maximilian, and he could have been so had he not preferred the 
safe position of Duke of Saxony to the precarious glories of the 
imperial throne. He saw that he should have neither the power 
nor the revenue to maintain himself as Emperor, and his natural 
prudence confirmed his resolution. He had now become a firm 
supporter of Charles V., and his counsel was always acknow- 
ledged of extreme value to the interests of the State. Thus, far 
from intending to enforce the provisions of the Edict of Worms, 
the Council of Regency seemed rather to aim at a further dis- 
cussion of the matter. However, we are concerned rather with 
its political action, by which it unluckily contrived to become 
unpopular with almost every class. The new financial system 
which it desired to establish was extremely obnoxious to the great 
cities. The whole commercial body, in fact, considered the customs 
which it was proposed to exact to be suggested by especial 
hostility to its interests, and opposed the measures of the Council 
with all its power. The princes, again, in many cases showed no 
cordial feeling towards it. But its chief opponents were the 
knights and nobles whose depredations it was determined to put 
down, rightly seeing that as long as such a system of wholesale 
robbery was suffered to exist the country could not possibly be- 
come prosperous. 

Romance has invested those feudal lords with many fas- 
cinating attributes which sober history is obliged to deny them. 
Everyone knows Gothe's idealisation of Gotz von Berlichingen, 
who will soon enter upon the scene of our study. Poets with 
less power than the great German, novelists whose ideas of 




history are as fanciful as the language in which they express 
them, have described to us the existence of a Ritter. Hospitable, 
generous, brave, he lived a glorious life of adventure and gallan- 
try, ever ready to relieve the oppressed and to punish the 
oppressor. His halls shone with the splendour of their adorn- 
ment. Pages of noble birth learned of him the lessons of honour 
and emulated his heroism. The poor found ready shelter under 
his roof, and women met with a true and refined courtesy at his 
hands. Far different in most cases was the reality. These 
petty lords had no means of subsistence but their exactions from 
the miserable peasantry, except — what indeed was their constant 
resource — the plunder they won by their swords. Merchants 
proceeding from town to town were not safe on the road. From 
the greater knights even cities were in danger. There was no 
chance of security against these men but by paying a kind of 
blackmail to one robber to defend them from the attacks of 
another. Nor were their principles so high as they have been 
represented, nor the conduct of their depredations so chivalrous. 
On the contrary, weakness was no protection, resistance was met 
by murder. Though such was the natural result of the feudal 
anarchy which existed in the order, examples, no doubt, may be 
found of knights who were quite free from any imputation of the 
grossest crimes. Of these no better representative could be 
discovered than Franz von Seckingen. He was of an ancient 
family, which had in the time of his father become important and 
prosperous by the successful feuds he had engaged in. The 
signs in the stars that during these ages were wont to accom- 
pany the birth of great men were not wanting in 1481, when 
Franz was born,^^ and seem to have foretold his future with their 
customary precision. His father's death on the scaffold when he 
was still a boy left him to work his way alone. He carried on a 
series of attacks upon the neighbouring lords and cities for the 
sake of men who appealed to him for aid against injustice as well 
as ' for his own hand,' and was not to be bought off from his 
prey but by large ransoms. Success was constantly with him. 
He was active, brave, energetic, and by the time when Maxi- 
milian's death caused a contest for the Empire between Charles 
of Spain and Francis of France he was of sufficient importance 
in the state to be eagerly sought as an ally by both candidates. 
He had previously been recommended to the service of the 
French king, but his haughty spirit had detected a want of confi- 
dence on the part of Francis which offended his pride.^*^ Leo X. 
was an active opponent of Charles — a circumstance sufficient to 
make Seckingen one of his partizans, as he saw no hope for the 
future of Germany in dependence on Rome. Many reasons 

1^ Flersheimer Chronik, Miinch's " Franz von Seckingen." 
i'^ Pardee's Life of Francis I., vol. i. p. 319. 








combined to make him a staunch supporter of the successful 
candidate and he became for some time a favourite with the new 
Emperor, who was not strong enough at present to put down the 
class of which he was so powerful a representative.^^ Not long 
before Charles's coronation Seckingen became acquainted with a 
man who like himself had the feelings of the ancient knighthood 
and the bold and reckless daring of a free Ritter, but who was 
also a man of wide culture and learning, and one of the truest 
humourists and keenest satirist of the age — Ulrich von Hutten. 
Few of the many remarkable men who pass across the scene in 
this eventful period so deeply enchain our interest as the warrior- 
poet, the laureate of Maximilian, the author of ' Trias Romana ' 
and * Epistolae obscurum virorum.' It has been well remarked^® 
that he united in a striking manner the characteristic features, 
the growth of that period of excitement, which we see seperately 
in the other heroes of the time. Like Seckingen he was a 
knight, like Reuchlin and Erasmus a scholar and humourist, like 
Luther a reformer. His books were in the hands of everyone, 
and the vigorous logic and trenchant satire of his ' appeals,' 
* invectives,' and 'dialogues' aroused many whom the theological 
arguments of Luther and Melancthon failed to move.^^ Hutten 
before this time had become an ardent partisan of Luther and 
begun to throw all the energy which he had formerly devoted to 
the cause of learning in her contest with ignorance and scholas- 
ticism into the fiercer struggle of the Reformers. The friendship 
between him and Seckingen was confirmed by their agreement 
on theological questions, and Hutten obtained a refuge for many 
a persecuted ecclesiastic in the castles of the hospitable knight of 
Ebernburg. There came Caspar Aquila, Bucer, CEcolampadius: 
Reuchlin and Luther were offered the shelter of its walls. Here 
too the new service of the Reformers was first regularly cele- 
brated : here CEcolampadius put forth his letter against " the 
unintelligible mutterings of the Mass,"^ and Seckingen himself 
published a defence of the administration of the Eucharist in 
both kinds, of the reading of the service in German and of the 
liberty of monks to repudiate their vows.^^ In Seckingen the 
desire of religious reformation was not joined to any anxiety for 
political freedom. On the contrary, he endeavoured to unite the 

17 The MS. history of a contemporary describes Seckingen at this time as 
•' elegans et sociabilis conversatione . . . generosus etiam et honestus, lepidus 
idem et facetus, et nemo neque nobilis in Germania neque princeps neque vir 
militaris esset, qui ipsi non gratificaretur." (quoted by Seckendorf Com. Luth., 
jib. i., p. 269.) 

1® A. Young — Preface to " Ulrich von Hutten." 

1^ Strauss, " Ulrich von Hutten His Life and Times." Sir James Stephen, 
" Essays in Ecclesiastical Biography." 

20 Gerdesius, Historia Evangelii, torn, i., monumenta p. 166. 

21 Seckendorf, Comment, de Lutheranismo, lib. i., 269. 




free knights with the reformers and to restore the privileges of 
which the former had been deprived, at the same time that he 
sought for complete reformation in the affairs of the Church. It 
was now determined that an attempt should be made to gain the 
alliance of the cities and nobles in a general rising against the 
new measures of the Imperial Chamber. Hutten's pen again 
came into requisition. He followed up addresses to the cities by 
a vigorous poem in German^^ which was intended to unite the 
two natural foes, the knights and the merchants, against the 
princes. Such an alliance, it might easily have been seen, was 
impracticable. Nor were the efforts of Seckingen to induce 
Luther to countenance his rising successful. The religious 
principles of the reformer made him consider the project un- 
justifiable and his political ability taught him that the moment 
chosen for its execution was ill-timed. '*The Word has con- 
quered the world and shall save it" he exclaimed, and he 
earnestly dissuaded Seckingen from the attempt. Hutten, how- 
ever, entered heart and soul into the design. In it he saw the 
dream of his life. Thoroughly popular though he had become 
in thought he was never able to rid himself of the class prejudice 
in which he had been educated, and he could see nothing but 
tyranny in the attempts of the princes to maintain order by the 
suppression of the abuses of the knighthood. Finding it useless 
to look for external assistance Seckingen determined to trust 
entirely to the Rhenish nobles, of whom accordingly he sum- 
moned a Convention at Landau, which met in August, 1522. 
An agreement was then signed by which the knights pledged 
themselves to support each other in resistance to all but feudal 
jurisdiction.23 Seckingen became their captain and added many 
troops to those which as an Imperial general and as if for the 
war with France he had already gathered together. Having thus 
secured such aid as he could, and placed himself at the head of 
600 horse and 8,000 foot,^* he declared war against the Arch- 
bishop-Elector of Treves, " for those things" he said "wherein 
he had acted against God and the Emperor's Majesty."^^ In 
order to secure the assistance of all the favourers of the new 
doctrines he put forth a manifesto, written by Hutten, in which 
lie promised to deliver the people "from the heavy anti-Christian 
yoke of the priesthood and lead them to evangelical freedom. "^6 
The choice of the Archbishop for attack was made for the reason 
that, as a religious as well as a secular prince, he seemed to unite in 

22 " Beklagunge der Freistette Teutschen Nation." 

23 Miinch's Franz von Seckingen. 

24 Seckendorf. But the Flersheimer Chronik gives the numbers as 1,500 horse 
and 6,000 foot, vide Miinch, iii., 215. 

2s Ranke, book iii., ch. 4. 

26 Meiner's Life of Hutten, p. 317. 

r I \ 


himself the opposition of the Church to the Reformation and of 
the princes to the privileges of the knights. Of course, no 
sooner were the intentions of Seckingen known than a proclama- 
tion was issued against him by the Imperial Chamber. To this 
he paid no heed, but published an address to his troops in which 
he explained his object to be the Reformation of the Church and 
not his own honour or glory. He professed himself still the 
Emperor's faithful servant and even tried to insinuate that his 
actions were in reality more beneficial to his Majesty's power 
than those of his Councillors.^' Such attempts to disguise his 
real purpose probably deceived no one. That his ambition 
prompted him to expect a principality or even an electorate as 
the fruits of his victory we may safely assume 2® His expecta- 
tions, however, were disappointed. His success was only 
temporary : his allies were either prevented from coming to his 
aid or defeated : the neighbouring princes gave their assistance 
to the Archbishop : and he was compelled to retire from Treves 
after a week's siege. In so bold a venture the result could only 
be victory or ruin ; and it was not long before Seckingen found 
that he had raised a tumult he had no power to still. For a time 
the attack upon him was deferred, in the first instance by the 
vengeance which the Archbishop and his allies, the Elector 
Palatine and the Landgrave of Hessen, proceeded to take on all 
who had assisted the knights and secondly by the interference of 
the Council of Regency, which we now see, anomalous as it may 
appear, almost in alliance with Seckingen.^^ The confederation 
of princes known as the Swabian league seemed inclined to take 
the matter into its own hands, and by some arbitrary proposals 
for the extinction of the knighthood came into opposition to the 
Council and threatened the interests of order. The Council now 
felt the need of power to enforce its mandates. The Princes 
turned their full strength against Seckingen and he had to fight 
the battle against them unaided. In the spring of 1523, when 
Seckingen was at his castle of Landstuhl, the three princes 
marched upon him and, having completed the environment on the 
30th of April, began to bombard the fortress. Every shot told on 
the ancient walls, which were quite unable to withstand artillery ; ^ 
and on the 7th of May defence was no longer possible. That 
day Seckingen had received a mortal wound, and it was with fast 
ebbing strength that he signed the capitulation. He had been 
carried into a dungeon, the only place where he could be safe 
from the cannonade. Thence he sent to ask an interview with 
the princes. The Archbishop, the Elector, and the Landgrave 

27 Strauss, Life of Hutten, p. 310. 
28 Ibid, p. 311, see Gothe " Gotz von Berlichingen," Act iv. Sc. 3. 

29 Ranke, book iii., ch. 4. 
30 Spalatin, Sammlung zu Sachs. Gesch. v. 148. 

> (-< 


entered the room, and all their anger seemed forgotten in the 
presence of the dying man. *' I go now to render my account 
before a greater judge " he rephed to the young PhiHp of Hessen. 
His strength was now gone. His chaplain elevated the Host 
while his enemies knelt and repeated a Paternoster as the spirit 
of Seckingen passed quietly away. The death of Hutten took 
place a few months afterwards. He had left Ebernburg about 
the time of the attack on Treves, perhaps with the intention of 
seeking the assistance that Seckingen expected from the Swiss. 
Not long after the death of his friend he heard the sad news at 
Zurich. It came at a time when he was already overwhelmed 
with misfortune. A terrible disease, from which he had suffered 
all his life, had now come upon him with renewed force after a 
period of absence. His last hours were embittered by a contro- 
versy with Erasmus into which he entered with all his old fire. 
On the ist of September, 1524, he ended his restless life. With 
his death all hope of the restoration of the Ritters to anything of 
their ancient power passed away. By the end of the year they 
were utterly crushed and ceased to have an appreciable influence 
in the Empire. Seckmgen's attack on Treves was the last 
instance of the exercise of Faustrecht, which the less powerful 
knights made no attempt to revive after his death. Their fall 
was inevitable : only for a moment had it been doubtful — when it 
seemed that an alliance with the new spirit that inspired the 
nation might lend them vitality for a time. But with them fell 
also the power of the Council of Regency, the hope of creating 
an united Germany. Since the nobility had failed in their 
attempt at reformation, the task remained for others. 






Hardly had the power of the Knights been broken by the 
death of Franz von Seckingen when the tranquillity of the 
Empire was again disturbed and the very existence of authority 
threatened by the outbreak of one of those terrible rebellions by 
which, from time to time in the history of Europe, the oppresed 
children of the soil have striven to shake off the cruel and 
tyrannical rule by which they have been bound. fUs long as a 
class exists in any country which is ground down to a state of 
servitude and kept in ignorant and brutal subjection to the classes 
above it, there lies beneath the surface of the outward tranquillity 
of that state a force which at times arises as with superhuman 
strength to exact a terrible vengeance for its wrongs and its 
misery. The history of Europe is full of these records of horror. 
Though in the ages when feudalism was the guiding principle of 


political life these insurrections were especially frequent and 
fierce, no era has been wholly without them : in later times, 
however, they have been, no doubt, less the terrible cry of the 
oppressed than the turbulent outburst of a democratic and 
socialistic spirit. The Peasants' War in Normandy in 997 : the 
terrible days of the Jacquerie : the atrocities of Wat Tyler and of 
Jack Cade : — these are but a few of the parallels to the Bauern- 
krieg of 1525. At this time a peasant was perhaps more down- 
trodden in Germany than in any other country. His condition 
has already been mentioned. fTt was little removed from actual 
slavery, and this not so much by the compulsory labour or by 
any absolute rights of his lord as by the impossibility of his 
rising to be anything but what he was born — the impossibility of 
prosperity or independence caused in a great measure by the 
oppressive dues to which he was always liable. There was the 
right of Tod/all, by which the lord on the death of the father of 
the family had his best pair of oxen, on the death of the mother 
her best gown : the Lehnschelling, the fine paid by any peasant 
who changed masters to the one he left. All his best produce — 
his finest wheat, fruit and honey — had to be given to his lord, to 
whom he was also bound to take a pig on Shrove Tuesday, a 
couple of chickens on Saint Martin's day, and a couple of geese 
at Michaelmas. ^^ The exactions of the clergy were hardly less 
oppressive. Tithes on everything the peasant possessed went to 
the priest and no religious rite could be had without paying 
for it.^^ Under such tyranny, feudal and ecclesiastical, no people 
could remain without frequent endeavours to obtain freedom. 
But it is the result of the ignorance and brutality to which such 
tyranny reduces men that their efforts to shake it off are marred 
by follies and stained by crimes which would render their triumph 
more disastrous to the cause of liberty than their defeat. Their 
ignorance makes them the dupes of fanatics and impostors who 
degrade their efforts by associating them with some ridiculous or 
puerile object : their brutality disgraces the execution of their 
projects by atrocities which unite against them, for their very 
preservation, all the supporters of Law and Order. 

The preaching of the Reformation was not without effect on 
the peasantry. The weak and the oppressed will always hear 
with joy the good tidings that the Gospel brings, and fanatics 
and charlatans will always arise to pervert its lesi ons and to 
preach not love and peace but enmity and sedition. |The Bauern- 
krieg of 1525 was much more fierce as well as more widespread 
than the scattered insurrections of previous years. Not since the 
Hussite Wars had the rising been so formidable. The various- 
rebellions of the Bundschuh were chiefly local and wanted the 
prominence of religious grievances so marked in 1525. Yet it 

81 Audin, " Histoire de Luther." 
82 A constant subject of complaint in the writings of the time. 


would be as unjust to connect the teaching of Luther with the 
Bauern-krieg as it would be to attribute the excesses of the 
Tabontes to a devoted attachment to the memory of Huss. 
The fact that the preachers who became the leaders of the 
msurrection were excessively hostile to the Church, and that the 
demands of the insurgents were largely based upon religious 
abuses gave an opportunity to the enemies of the Reformation to 
lay the blame of the rising on Luther— a charge from which he 
has been amply vindicated. In such a state of misery a rebellion 
was mevitable: it was equally inevitable that at a time of such 
intense religious excitement the ideas of the rebels should be 
largely coloured by religious theories or veiled by pretence of 
religious earnestness. Thus we shall not be surprised to find 
that we may trace the beginning of these disturbances to the 
fanaticism of such men as Carlstadt, Pfeiffer, Miinzer, Storch 
and Stubner. 

At Zwikau a weaver named Nicholas Storch began his career 
as a prophet by choosing twelve apostles and seventy-two 
disciples.^ Driven out thence they came to Wittenberg where 
they caused no small stir during the absence of Luther. Some of 
them preached against infant baptism, others against all spiritual 
government. Expelled from Wittenberg when Luther returned, 
they began to travel over the country, disseminating their 
antinomian opinions and joining with those who were exciting- 
sedition among the peasants. Miinzer, who was once the priest 
of Alstadt in Thuringia, first entered the lists as a controver- 
sialist, in commentaries and pamphlets, but, finding that much 
attention was not paid to his arguments, turned his energies to 
Itinerant preaching and began to put his theories into practice by 
stirring up the people to rebellion. When the opinions of these 
men began to obtain notice, Luther wrote several letters'^^ against 
them and was especially earnest in urging the Electors to expel 
them from Saxony— which only served to extend their influence. 
Not long after this the insurrection broke out. In November the 
peasants began a rebellion against the Count of Lupfen : «« about 
the same time the vassals of the Abbot of Kempten rose.^ In the 
one case the cause is said to have been the petty but vexatious 
duties that the Counts of Fiirstenburg and Lupfen demanded: in 
the other the rigid exaction of the feudal reliefs or Todfall. 
Before long all Swabia was overrun by bands of peasants, bearing 
on their banners the golden Bundschuh with the inscription 

" Wer frei will seyn 
Der folge diesem Sonnenschein." 

^ Seckendorf lib. i. ii8. 

8* Works, torn, iii., Alt. fol. 40, 41, 42, d. torn, iii., fol. 109. " Sir James 

Stephen— Essays in Ecclesiastical Biography. 

^ Sleidan, lib. iv. 

^ Martinus Crescius, Anml. Suevic, lib. x. part iii. fol. 583. Kohlrausch p. 375. 


r II 

> i 


As they attained some sort of organisation they increased in 
daring. Miinzer appeared among them and incited them to 
endurance by wild and inflammatory addresses.^' At first, how- 
ever, they showed remarkable moderation and contented them- 
selves with defeating all the troops sent against them by the 
Swabian League. Having surrounded a force under Truchsess 
they granted him a truce on the condition of the reception of the 
twelve articles which they presented to the Council of Regency 
now sitting at Esslingen.*^ These articles, which were drawn up 
in an extremely temperate and simple manner by Christopher 
Schapler, a minister of Zwingle's sect,^^ demanded '' that the 
peasants should be allowed to choose for themselves the ministers 
who were to preach to them the word of God, pure and without 
the introduction of any worldly matter ; that in future they 
should not pay any other tithes but that of corn ; that they had 
hitherto been treated like slaves, although by the blood of our 
Saviour all men had been made free, and, although they desired 
not to live independent of all superior authority, they were, 
nevertheless, resolved no longer to continue in this state of 
slavery, unless it could be proved to them by the Holy Scriptures 
that they were in error. That finally, they had to complain of 
many things, but that they would observe silence in the hope 
that what they claimed would be yielded and that their lords 
would treat them in accordance with the counsel and precepts of 
the Gospel, and whilst they moderated the oppression they had 
exercised from the earliest times down to the present moment, 
they, their lords, should likewise abstain from adding thereto 
daily fresh burdens."'*^ Moderate as these demands were, 
simple and unpretending as the expression of them, it 
will be easily seen that they were not acceptable to the 
clergy or nobility, whether Catholic or Lutheran. To give the 
peasants the choice of their own religious instructors would have 
meant a still larger increase in the followers of Miinzer and the 
Anabaptists. Nor were the nobility more ready to surrender their 
feudal dues than the clergy any portion of their tithes. The 
Swabian League replied by an offer to treat with the insurgents if 
they would restore all the places they had taken, return to their 
lords, and dissolve the solemn brotherhoods which they had estab- 
lished.'^^ To such conditions it was impossible for the peasants to 
consent : they were demanding their rights, not entreating in- 
dulgence. The result of the rejection of the Articles might have 

87 Ranke, book iii. ch. 6. 

^ Sleidan Comment, de Statu Relig. et ReipuhliccB Car. V. Cces. lib. iv. 

8^ Sleidan lib. vi. part 128 : Achilles Grassarus Annul. August. 

*o Verbatim from Kohlrausch p. 375. 

*^ These confraternities met in gardens and fields, whence they had received 
the name of " Garten-briider." Seckendorf lib. i. p. 304. 


been foreseen. The moderate men who had hitherto ruled the 
peasants had to give way, and their places were taken by fanatics 
and incendiaries, such as Miiller, Metzler, Hipler, and ' Httle 
Hans ' Rohrbach. Luther meanwhile wrote letters to them, and 
to the nobles, exhorting the latter to be moderate and temperate 
in their treatment of their vassals, but overwhelming the former 
with reproaches.^ There was no Hutten alive to raise his voice 
for the misguided wretches : the warrior-poet would not have 
looked so coldly and harshly on their struggles as did the great 
Reformer. " Better," said Luther " that all the peasants should 
perish, than that the princes and the magistrates should 
suffer any injury : for the peasants have taken up the sword 
against the will of God." But his letters were disregarded. 
Nor were the journeys that he now undertook, endeavouring 
to compose the sedition, any more successful. Some of 
the cities even entered into alliances with the peasants, and 
the insurrection continued to spread, and began to be marked 
by crimes from which it had hitherto been free. They overran 
and devastated Swabia, Wiirtenburg, Franconia, to the Rhine 
and Alsace,^ storming and burning the castles, and slaying the 
lords.*^ At Weinsberg they besieged and took the castle, and 
barbarously murdered the Count, Ludwig von Helfenstein, and 
all the men of noble birth within the walls, who, in spite of the 
entreaties of the Countess, a natural daughter of Maximilian, were 
driven in her very presence upon the pikes of their vassals. 
Luther now wrote another letter to the princes, calling upon them 
to unite at once and ruthlessly put down these terrible atrocities. 
Meanwhile the peasants daily increased in strength. Their 
leaders were not all of their own class : Florian Geier, a knight 
of French blood, was one of their commanders, and they had now 
secured the aid, willing or unwilling,*^ of the celebrated Gotz von 
Berlichingen, the hero of Gothe's famous drama, who has been 
called a Seckingen on a smaller scale. This remarkable man was 
born at Jaxthausen, in Wiirtenburg, the castle of his family. He 
was, in his youth, in the household of the Margrave of Branden- 
burg. In 1499 he became the head of the family on the death of 
his father, and began to live as a free knight. In 1504, at the siege 
of Landshut, his right hand was crushed so severely that it came 
away when he took off his gauntlet. To replace it he had a hand 
of iron made which he found " of good service,"^ and from which 
he was henceforth known as Gotz with the Iron Hand. He con- 

*2 Luther, Works torn. iii. alt. f. 114 torn. iii. alt. f. 124, et seq. 

^ Seckendorf lib. ii. p. 8. 

^ For a graphic description of their ruthless ferocity see the stirring scenes of 
Gothe's " Gotz von Berlichingen." 

*^Petrus Gnodalius, Historia de Seditions repentina vulgi prcecipue Rusti- 
corum — Anno 1525. Basil, 1570. 

*^ See his Autobiography. 

f "M 



> Ei 


tinued his profitable career of robbery in the following years till, 
having declared war on the city of Heilbronn (in a Fehdebrief 
still preserved in the city archives), he was defeated and captured. 
He now suffered imprisonment for four years, at the end of which 
time he obtained his liberty on the payment of a ransom of 2000 
florins. In 1513 he declared war against Niirnburg: waylaid 
merchants returning from Leipsic, plundered such as had any- 
thing valuable with them, and carrying off the rest confined them 
in dungeons until they had paid ransoms. For this he was placed 
under the Ban of the Empire, and ordered to pay a fine of 14,000 
florins. Having with difficulty, and after some time, collected that 
sum, he was restored to his civil rights. This man having been 
made commander-in-chief of the peasants in Swabiaand Franconia, 
did not seem to relish his position, but wrote to the nobles then 
assembled at Schweinfurt,*^ and to Conrad, Bishop of Wurtzburg, 
to explain the reason of his apparent disloyalty. He said that 
when his castle of Gundelsheim was taken by the peasants he 
was obliged in fear of immediate death to accept their offers and 
to become, in his own phrase, rather the servant of their folly than 
the leader of their forces. He added that since he had been with 
them he had done all in his power to prevent their outrages, and 
that he had preserved the castles of many nobles in the Electorate 
of Mainz, and up to the Black Forest, from being burnt ; that he 
had warned the Bishop of the contemplated attack on Wurtzburg ; 
and that he was anxious to make his escape from them, but had 
always been too closely watched to be able to do so. The princes 
appear to have believed him. By this time, however, the career 
of the peasants' success in Franconia and Swabia was over. The 
princes had united to put them down. Casimir of Anspach- 
Baireuth attacked them vigorously, defeated some of them, and 
'* hanged the ringleaders literally by dozens."*® From one side 
the army of the Swabian League, lead by George Truchsess, 
Baron of Waldburg, and William Count Fiirstenburg, defeated 
them in several battles near Ulm, following them down to 
Biberach and even to the lake of Constance. From another 
quarter the Palatine and the warlike Archbishop of Treves 
attacked them, and found little resistance in the three battles that 
took place. Gotz was pardoned on pledging his word of honour 
never again to disturb the peace of the Empire, and retired to his 
castle of Homberg where he wrote his autobiography, an interest- 
ing and peculiar record of his remarkable life, and died on the 
23rd of July, 1562. 

Very different was the punishment of the misguided peasants. 
All the horrors of their own victories were repeated on themselves, 
and their outrages avenged by brutalities as shameless. 

We must now return to Miinzer, who, when the insurrection 
in Franconia had been organised, went into Saxony and Thuringia 

*7 Gnodalius. *^ Carlyle, Friedrich IT., book iii. ch. 5. 





where he stirred up a rebellion of equally alarming proportions. 
Here too came Luther trying to put out the conflagration which 
the Anabaptists had excited. He was recalled however by the 
death of the Elector of Saxony .^^ Frederic was very ill when the 
insurrection broke out in his dominions, and too weak to take any 
part in the contest, but he wrote a noble letter to his brother 
John, who was about to join the league against the peasants, in 
which he acknowledged the hardships that the unfortunate men 
had suffered, and laid much of the blame on the severity of the 
lay and ecclesiastical lords, but, added he, " fortassis maxima causa 
motuum miseris data est, prohibita prsedicatione verbi Dei."^ 
Not many days afterwards the Wise Elector, kind and considerate 
to the end, breathed his last. Miinzer was attended by perfect 
success in Thuringia and Saxony : at Miihlhausen he became 
one of the rulers of the city, and all existing institutions seemed 
doomed to make way for the law of the Kingdom of Heaven which 
he was to set up. He inculcated the absolute necessity of killing 
ungodly rulers,^^ and would have had no hesitation in carrying his 
principles into practice. He was associated in the command with 
another fanatic, a renegade priest named Pfeiffer, who was even 
more bloodthirsty than himself. Luckily his opportunities were 
not so many as those of the vSwabian peasants. Duke George 
of Saxony collected an army, and, having been joined by Philip of 
Hessen and Henry of Brunswick, marched against the insurgents, 
whom he found encamped on the ridge of the hills above 
Frankenhausen. There the wretched assemblage, very ill armed 
and totally destitute of organisation, was posted, and awaited the 
approach of the princes with silent dismay. When the Duke had 
advanced near enough to notice the miserable condition of the 
rebels he humanely sent to offer them their lives and liberty to 
return home if they would deliver up their leaders. Miinzer, when 
he heard the terms offered, attempted in a violent harangue to 
restore the courage of his men. Pretending that he was now 
directly inspired, he declared that the Divine assistance had been 
promised him, and prophesied- a certain victory by special aid 
from Heaven. The fiery darts of the enemy should fall harmless 
around the children of God, and the tyrants should be confounded 
in their own machinations. His oratory was not without its usual 
effect. The miserable peasants insanely flung away their hope of 
life, and rejected the offers with contumely. Nothing could now 
avert their destruction. Their only defence — a slight rampart 
formed by waggons — was immediately destroyed by the artillery, 
and the Saxon soldiers rushed in upon them sword in hand. The 
first rank made no resistance, but, singing a hymn, waited 
patiently for the heavenly aid they had been promised. They 
*9 Spalatin. torn. iii. fol. 303. ^ Quoted by Seckendorf lib. ii. sect. 2. 

61 Auslegung des unterschyds Danielis des Propheten etc., durch Thomas 
Miinzer 1524. Quoted by Ranke. 



were cut down without mercy. The rest of the peasants, seeing 
the destruction of their first line, fled precipitately into the town, 
where they were followed by the soldiers, who captured all the 
survivors, Miinzer and Pfeiffer among the rest. 

The defeat was complete. All the towns surrendered, and 
Muhlhausen was treated with deserved severity. Pfeifl"er and 
ninety-two of the citizens were brought before the princes. The 
younger ones were pardoned, but the greater number were imme- 
diately beheaded. Pfeiffer died stubbornly — " diabolically 
obdurate" says Gnodalius — without a word of penitence or 
entreaty. Soon afterwards Miinzer was brought out. Over- 
whelmed with terror he could not utter the customary prayers 
and declaration of faith till Henry of Brunswick encouraged him 
to proceed. He acknowledged his crimes and made public con- 
fession of his errors. He then turned to the princes and 
implored them to greater lenity and charity towards their vassals, 
as the only way to prevent the recurrence of such rebellions. He 
was allowed to speak as long as he wished ; and when he had finished 
he commended his soul to the mercy of God and received with 
fortitude the stroke of the executioner. His head was placed on 
a pike which was fixed in the middle of the camp. His execu- 
tion took place shortly before the final defeat of the peasants in 
Franconia, and the absolute annihilation of the Thuringian rebels 
no doubt served to discourage their still fighting fellows. But as 
Miinzer was the great popular leader of the movement we may 
take his death as the real termination of the crisis and security 
for the renewed tranquillity of the Empire. 

Contemporary historians were much busied with discussion as 
to the connection of these disturbances with the spread of the 
Lutheran opinions, and the Reformers have been severely stigma- 
tised by hostile writers as the instigators of the war. All those 
who advocate moderate and necessary reforms have been exposed 
to similar charges. Opinions, in themselves not subversive to 
the national constitution and advocated by their originators in a 
temperate spirit, become in the hands of demagogues fraught 
with harm, and under the direction of empirics attended with 
excesses which are often hastily laid to the charge of the authors 
of what mav have been in itself but a rational and beneficial 
project. At the same time doctrines such as Luther preached 
and Hutten advocated were more than usually liable to such 
construction by ignorant and weak minds. The anathemas 
denounced against the successor of Saint Peter, the supreme 
head of the Christian hierarchy, could not be so openly pro- 
claimed without causing influences hostile to the principles of 
imperial government. The Constitution of the Empire was 
based, as we have said, on exactly the same theory as that of the 
Church. In theory at least they were the two parts of one and 
the same whole, which held all power in Christendom. In 

c 2 


practice of course the dissensions were frequent, but most of 
them were based upon a natural inference from the theory itself. 
One of the two powers must be the superior, and it was the 
constant effort of Emperors and Popes to prove their right to this 
position. The tendency of the age was to efface entirely the 
remembrance of this " Imperial dream " — but within the 
memories of men it had been the chief object of Emperors on 
the one hand and of Popes on the other to carry it into practice 
and give it greater development. The fantastic idea of Maxi- 
milian to aspire to the Papacy has been taken merely in jest by 
some writers, but a great historian has proved that it was neither 
so ridiculous nor so impossible as has been supposed. The 
Emperor's letter to Lichtenstein on the subject may be taken 
as an evidence of the sincerity of his intention, and examples 
are not wanting to prove that the difficulties attending its 
execution might not have been insurmountable. The importance 
of such a step on the future of the Empire could hardly be 
exaggerated. The course of the Reformation would probably 
have been entirely different. But it is difficult to reason 
seriously on the probable results of such an event, however 
possible for the moment it may have been. All such projects for 
union were unsuccessful. The rule of such men as Julius II. 
and Leo X. tended only to widen the breach between the Empire 
and the Papacy, till the course of the Reformation severed 
Germany for ever from Rome. The Reformers have been ably 
defended in their own times and by modern writers from the 
charge of having caused the Bauernkrieg. The conduct of 
Luther indeed was so plainly antagonistic to the peasants that 
his detractors have been forced to modify — and at the same time 
envenom — their accusation against him into one of first fomenting 
the insurrection, and t^en, when he saw that it was likely to be 
unsuccessful, turning against it. The refutation of this calumny 
is evident to any reader of his works. He had no sympathy 
whatever with such disturbances, and always opposed any such 
resort to violence. At the same time the extreme vehemence of 
his language and his hasty and ill considered attacks on every 
ecclesiastical establishment cannot leave him blameless in the 
affair. No one could seriously believe that he favoured the 
relic^ious views of such men as Storch and Miinzer. On the 
contrary his intolerance was even more marked with regard to 
their opinions than to those of the Romanists. At first he 
regarded their extravagances rather as follies with which the 
spirit of Evil was amusing himself — " Sic ludit Satanas in 
hominibus" says he in a letter to Spalatin, the secretary and 
biographer of Frederic the Wise. But he soon perceived a more 
serious intent on the part of the diabolical agencies to whom he 
attributed almost every important event, and began to denounce 
the Anabaptist preachers as the willing agents of the devil. 




> If 


The doctrine of these men was by no means stifled by the 
defeat of their political organisations and we shall see the 
subversive tendencies of their views in fuller operation a few 
years later. 

There is one important phase of this struggle to which we 
have hitherto hardly alluded — the actual reforms contemplated 
by the peasants. These included alterations far more complete 
and changes far more revolutionary than the simple demands of 
the Twelve Articles. To this no doubt the alliance with the 
cities contributed ; but at the same time it must not be forgotten 
that few of the outbreaks of rebellion among the lower classes 
from the tenth to the nineteenth century have been without some 
practical scheme for reform in the system of national government. 
The Norman Peasants' War of 997 is remarkable as affording an 
early instance of this.^^ The leaders of that insurrection estab- 
lished a representative assembly to which two deputies were sent 
by the peasants of each district. This body met and framed 
enactments which struck at the very root of the abuses they had 
rebelled against, and its decisions were submitted to by the whole 
of the peasant class without hesitation. Very similar to this was 
the central government established at Heilbronn by the Fran- 
conian insurgents in 1525, where the contemplated reforms were 
discussed. They had formed plans which if carried into 
operation would have revolutionised the whole system of the 
Empire. Their projects were as ambitious as those of Seckingen 
— since the princes and the knights were unable to reform the 
State they would attempt it themselves.^ At the head of their 
demands we find an article that takes its place in many schemes 
of reformation from early to recent times — that there should be an 
uniform coinage and fixed scale of weights and measures. The 
hatred of the people towards the Roman Law, which had been 
gradually introduced by the Kaisers, also comes out here. The 
doctors were not to be allowed to appear in the lawcourts ; they 
were to exist only on sufferance at the Universities. Reformation 
of the judicial and administrative system was indeed one of their 
principal desires, and an entire re-organisation of the Courts was 
intended. One supreme court was to be created, which was to 
be called, like that established by Maximilian, the Kammergericht. 
It was to be composed of two princes, two counts regnant, three 
burghers from the Imperial cities, three from the princely 
residences, and four from all the Communes in the Empire. 
Beneath this were to be four Hofgerichte : sixteen local courts, 
Landgerichte : and sixty-four Freigerichte, which were to regulate 
taxation and such matters. These were all to contain represen- 

^2 Freeman's Norman Conquest^ vol. i. ch. 4. 

^ The whole of this branch of the subject has been so admirably and 
exhaustively treated by Ranke (book ill. ch. 6) that any attempt to sketch it 
must be indebted to his studies and based upon his lucid explanation. 





tatives of the peasants. Thus the equal right of every citizen to 
have a share in the government of his country— the old Teutonic 
freedom which Tacitus described and which must have sounded 
strangely in the sixteenth century— was insisted upon. But the 
change which perhaps most of all showed the sweeping nature of 
their^'measures was the proposal to secularize immediately the 
whole of the ecclesiastical property. The enormous results of so 
vast a confiscation had been carefully calculated. The proceeds 
were to be a compensation to the lords for the loss of their feudal 
rights, which were to be entirely abolished ; they were to provide 
for the public necessities of the Empire, and to release the nation 
from all tolls and duties. The peasants further would admit of 
no rulers but the Emperor, as the Caesar to whom obedience was 
commanded in the Gospel, and his deputies. 

So the peasants failed in their attempt to reforn the Empire, as 
the Emperors, the Councillors, and the Knights had failed before 
them. It was now to be seen who would next come forward as 
the champion of progress— by what means the Reformation in 
civil and ecclesiastical government would be effected, and whether 
with it national unity and the consolidation of the Empire were to 
be attained. 



While the Peasants' War had been filling the minds of men in 
the South an important revolution had been taking place in the 
North of Germany. In Prussia there remained the great religious 
Order of the Teutonic Knights who had conquered the country they 
now governed. Albert of Brandenburg, the brother of the Mar- 
grave Casimir, whose exploits in the Peasants' War have been 
mentioned, was elected Grand Master (Hochmeister) of the Order 
in 151 1. The position was by no means a bed of roses. Into the 
history of the feud between the Knights and Poland it would be 
tedious to enter ; suffice it to say that the homage which the 
Polish Kings had for some time been successful in obtaining was 
refused by the new Grand Master. Sigismund of Poland, who 
was Albert's uncle, was in no haste to proceed to hostilities, 
though he refused in the slightest to withdraw his claims. On the 
other hand Albert was reluctant to retire tamely from the position 
of defiance he had taken up. All his efforts to procure assistance 
from the Knights in other parts of the Empire, or from the 
Princes, were unsuccessful. In 1519 war could no longer be 
averted ; it ended, as was inevitable, in the defeat of the Knights ; 
Sigismund, with rare generosity, granting a truce for four years. 
During these years Albert paid much attention to the great ques- 

♦ 11 ^ 

tions which were then so profoundly agitating the rest of Ger- 
many. Whether the fact that it was manifestly to his interest to 
embrace the Lutheran opinions influenced him in his determina- 
tion is not for us to say. But after much consultation and an 
interview with Luther he took the decisive step which is known 
as the Secularization of Prussia. By the peace of Cracow in 
1525 he became hereditary Duke of Prussia instead of Grand 
Master of the Teutonic Order; he repudiated his vows and gave 
up his semi-religious position ; he granted permanent possession 
of the lands they then held temporarily to those Knights who 
agreed to the change; he secularized the Order, and the Kings of 
Poland, in return for personal homage, guaranteed the freedom of 
the new duchy. 

The immediate effects of this change were not important. It 
raised a storm of indignation on the part of the rest of the Order; 
the Emperor placed the Duke under the Ban ; but men were too 
much occupied with the struggle around them to think of the 
distant Prussia. It was one of the steps however in the change 
which was placing the conduct of the religious and political revo- 
lution in different hands. The Knights, the lower order of 
nobility, had at first seemed to be identified with the movement 
which was aiming at religious liberty and national unity. After 
they had been crushed the cause appeared to be that of the 
wild Bauernkrieg. But the failure of both these enterprises — 
owing to their own inherent weaknesses — had not destroyed the 
vitality of the motive principle : it had only given its direction to 
different agents. From the time of the battle of Miihlhausen the 
change began, and one of the first events that distinctly helped it 
was the Secularization of Prussia. The death of Frederic the 
Wise had a similar result. He had always been careful and 
prudent, rather suffering than supporting Luther. But his 
brother and successor took up resolutely the opinions of the 
Reformers, and declared very soon after his accession to the 
Electorate his determination to establish their form of worship in 
his dominions. Margrave Casimir of Brandenburg, who was 
governing Baireuth for his infirm father, was inclined to the 
same party, and his brother George (^'a simple hearted, truth 
loving, modestly valiant man, rising unconsciously into the 
heroic figure," says Carlyle^*) was an active and consistent mem- 
ber of it. He had brought his doubts to Luther and been 
satisfied of the truth of his explanation of the great revolution. 
As soon as he was convinced he became a w^arm supporter of the 
movement. The Landgrave of Hessen also attached hirnself 
firmly to the Lutheran cause. He had brought two Lutheran 
preachers to Miihlhausen with him, and had consequently met 
with a reproof from George of Saxony, who remained faithful to 
his old teachers. Though he was never a very strong character 

** Friedrich 11.^ book iii. ch. 5. 


his aid at this time was usefuh The adherence of these princes 
to the new doctrines, though it had not taken the shape of a 
formal aUiance, caused great alarm to the Catholic party. In 
1525 the Elector of Mainz, Cardinal Albert of Brandenburg, and 
his brother the Elector Joachim I., the Duke of Brunswick, Duke 
George of Saxony, and some other princes met at Dessau and 
formed an alliance, perhaps not definite but certainly real, for the 
purpose of resisting the increase of the religious reformation. 
The news of their meeting produced a similar consternation 
among the Lutherans, and the Landgrave of Hessen at once 
sent his chamberlain to concert a counter treaty with the Elector 
of Saxony. John Frederic, the son of the latter, soon after had 
a personal interview with Philip in which the subject was more 
particularly considered. The result of the various discussions 
between the other princes whose safety was threatened by the 
Catholic compact, and by the Emperor's letter from Seville, 
which had recently become known, was a League ratified at 
Torgau on March 4, 1526, which was joined by John of Saxony, 
Philip of Hessen, Henry of Mecklenburg and other princes, and 
by the Imperial city of Magdeburg. These Leagues mark the 
beginning of the great struggle for political power which was 
now to overshadow the religious reformation that was ostensibly 
its object. The princes saw in Luther a valuable assistant 
against Imperial and Papal domination and were only too ready 
to seize upon the justification he gave for appropriating ecclesi- 
astical possessions. Political and religious motives thus united 
to form a strong aristocratic party in favour of the Reformers. 
On the other side stood the ecclesiastical electors and those of 
the secular princes who were attached either by religious feeling 
to the Church, by personal devotion to the House of Austria, or 
by conservative principle to the existing order of things. The 
two parties were first displayed in full organization at the Diet of 
Spires, June 25, 1526, when the ' Evangelical ' alliance appeared 
in great splendour in the persons of the Elector of Saxony and 
the Landgrave. Not long after the opening of the proceedings a 
letter from the Emperor was read by one of his deputies, de- 
claring his will that nothing should be decreed contrary to the 
"ancient customs, canons and ceremonies of the Church."" 
Most of the cities, especially those in Upper Germany, respect- 
fully replied that the difficulty of enforcing the Edict of 
Worms was greater now than ever, and petitioned for a National 
Council. The firmness of the revolutionary party produced 
a compromise, agreed to by the Emperor's brother Ferdinand, 
which declared that as far as the Edict of Worms was con- 
cerned, each state " should so live, rule and bear itself as it 
could render good account of to God and the Emperor."^ This 

w Sleidan, lib. vi. 
" •* Fiir sich also zu leben, zu regieren und zu halten, wie ein jeden solches 




was the first victory won by the new party, and proved of the 
greatest advantage to its peaceful growth during the next few 
years. Luther had now leisure to superintend the reforms that 
were being carried out in Saxony. Casimir of Anspach-Barieuth 
died about this time, and left his infant son Albert to the charge 
of his brother, the "truth-loving" George. The lull, however, 
was only temporary. It was first broken by an alarm on the part 
of Philip of Hessen (the Pack affair, not necessary to be related 
here). The incursion which the Landgrave made into Bamberg " 
served to stir up the animosity of the Catholic league, and to '' 
kindle the flames of religious persecution in the neighbouring - 
states. The reconciliation between Charles V. and the Pope^ 
which took place at this time, caused a change in the Emperor's' 
German Policy. He was no longer desirous to annoy the Holy' 
See by pretending to yield to the Lutherans, and consequently 
returned to the course he had pursued previously to the last Diet-^ 
of Spires. The new Diet, which met at Spires in March, 1529, " 
and was presided over by Ferdinand, now King of Hungary and^ 
Bohemia, annulled the Recess of the former one, and ordered the' 
observance of the Edict of Worms. Against this dicision thc^ 
Lutherans appealed in that famous Protest which has given them >• 
the name by which they have since been known. The Protestant -* 
party, as we may henceforth call it, was composed in addition to^ 
the members of the League of Torgau, of George of Anspach, and'^ 
several important cities, including Strasburg, Niirnberg, Ulm,' 
and Constance. The demand for a National Council was no' 
longer to be resisted, and Charles summoned the Diet of 
Augsburg, which met in 1530, when the Emperor returned from 
Italy to open it. The occasion was one of the most critical in the 
history of the Reformation, and the assembly was a grand and 
imposing one. Charles V. again appeared in Germany — no 
longer the young man whose advisers were the real rulers of the 
Empire, but the greatest Monarch in Europe, whose power was 
unrivalled by that of any other sovereign, and who owed the 
greater part of his uninterrupted success to his own genius. His 
entry was accompanied by a great display of religious and military 
pomp, as befitted the style of Roman Emperor. 

Pleased as all the princes were by his gracious manner and the 
moderation of his tone, a very short time passed before they gave 
a distinct declaration of their determination to resist him. A 
private interview took place between the Emperor and his brother 
and the Elector of Saxony, the Landgrave, the Duke of Liineburo- 
and Margrave George of Anspach. Charles requested the Protes- 
tant princes to silence their preachers. The Landgrave's defence 
of his creed and appeal to the witness of the Bible was followed by 
the bold refusal of Margrave George — " Before I would deny my 

gegen Gott und Kais. Mt. hoffet und vertrauet zu verantworten." Ranke 
book iv. ch. 2. 


God and His Evangel I would rather kneel down here before your 
Majesty and have my head struck off.'"^^-" Nicht Kopf ab, lover 
Fuist nicht Kopf ab," replied Charles with his Flemish accent. 
Ten davs afterwards was read the Confession drawn up by 
Melancthon, which became the authoritative declaration oi the 
Protestant belief. Everyone knows the details of its presentation 
to the Emperor, which have been so graphically described by 
many historians. Into the minute history of the Diet of Augs- 
bur^, since it bears only indirectly upon our subject, it will be un- 
necessary to enter. It will suffice to note the conclusion of the 
proceedings— a complete rupture between the Catholic and Pro- 
testant parties, and a declaration of the Diet after the latter party 
had retired that the Lutheran doctrines were heretical, to which 
was added a decree for the restoration of the ecclesiastical pro- 
perty and the establishment of a rigid censorship of theological 
writings It must be mentioned, however, that at this time the 
Protestant cause received a check which might have seemed 
likely to prove fatal, in the division which occurred between the 
disciples of Luther and Zuinglius. The meeting between the 
two reformers that had taken place at Marburg in the October of 
the previous year, had served only to widen the breach between 
them, and Charles took the opportunity of the Diet to attempt 
still further to separate them by refusing to receive the Zuinglian 
confession presented by the cities of Strasburg Memmingen, 
Lindau and Constance.** Upon the dissolution of the Diet pre- 
cautionary measures were at once taken by the Protestant princes, 
and on the 22nd December, 1530, took place the first meeting at 
Schmalkalden, an unimportant rather than a small town in 
Franconia,^^ where the festival of Christmas was passed in con- 
sideration of the gloomy prospect of the future by the Elector of 
Saxony, the Landgrave of Hessen, the Duke of Luneburg, the 
Prince of Anhalt, the Counts Gebhardt and Mansfeld, and envoys 
from other Protestant leaders. As Ranke has pointed out,^^ the 
significance of the league which was then made was political even 
more than religious, and the princes now took their stand upon 
the legal side of their cause. Their fear of the Emperor's employ- 
incr force against them— a contingency which the Recess of the 
Dfet had made them clearly foresee— was increased by the 
election of Ferdinand, the King of Bohemia and Hungary, as 
King of the Romans, in which position he would naturally have 
considerably more authority during his brother's absence than 
he had previously possessed. Besides entering into an alliance 
for mutual defence, subsequently joined by other princes and 
cities and famous as the Schmalkaldic League, the assembled 
leaders sent letters of complaint against the Emperor to the King 
of France, and to Henry VIII. of England, and solicited the 
« Carlyle, Friedrich II., book iii., ch. 5. ^ Coxe, House of Austria, ch. 29. 
w Seckendorf lib. iii., i. ^ Book vi., ch. i. 




aid of Denmark and the maritime cities of Germany, from whom 
they received friendly but indefinite answers. They were ioined 
however, by the Duke of Bavaria, who formed an alliance — ^[Vom 
the first manifestly hollow — with them at Saalfeld on October 
24, 1531. The impetuous Philip of Hessen wished at once to 
take up arms, but more prudent counsels prevailed, and the year 
passed away without any outbreak in Germany. In Switzerland 
a civil war had broken out between the Four Forest Cantons with 
that of Zug and the Protestant Cantons of Ziirich and Berne, 
which was provoked by Zuinglius, v/ho by his rashness caused a 
defeat of the men of Ziirich at Kappel, where he was himself 

The resolute attitude assumed by the Schmalkaldic League 
was entirely successful. Circumstances acted greatly in their 
favour. The imminent danger in which the hereditary dominions 
of the Emperor was placed by the sudden invasion of the Turks 
made it absolutely necessary that at least the semblance of 
internal peace should be attained in the face of such a threatening 
outlook, and overtures were consequently made, by the advice of 
the King of the Romans, to the Protestant princes. The Elector 
Palatine and the Archbishop of Mainz acted as mediators, and 
as both parties had something to gain by a reconciliation a 
compromise was easily made. The First Religious Peace, as it 
afterwards came to be called, was signed at Niirnberg, in July, 
1532. It provided that the Lutherans should be allowed full 
freedom of worship, that all judicial action against them should 
be suspended, that the ecclesiastical property should not be 
restored, and that on the other hand the Protestant princes should 
furnish their proper complement of men and money to the 
Emperor for his present needs, and should not protect the 
Zuinglian or Anabaptist heretics. The weakness of this treaty 
lay in the temporary nature of its provisions, which were to be 
ultimately submitted to a General Council. The Landgrave was 
extremely reluctant to agree to it on account of its intolerant and 
impolitic exclusion of the Zuinglians. He finally signed, however, 
and the ratification took place at the Diet at Ratisbon on 
August 2. A fortnight afterwards the Elector John, the chief of 
the Schmalkaldic League, who had become so renowned in 
Europe that he was spoken of as the rival of the Emperor by so 
shrewd a man as Henry VIII.^ was struck with apoplexy and 
died, " in security and peace." 

At the conclusion of the Turkish War Germany was disturbed 
by Philip of Hessen's incursion into Wiirtenburg where he 
restored Duke Ulrich, who had been driven out of the country, 
just after the death of Maximilian, by the Swabian League.^* 
This prince had lately become a Protestant and his assistance to 

^1 Ranke, book vi. ch. 5. 
62 Kohlrausch ch. xviii. and see the early writings of Ulrich von Hutten. 


the Schmalkaldic League would of course prove valuable. His 
dominions had been recently placed in the hands of the King of 
the Romans, but the Landgrave, who had previously allied himself 
with Francis I.,^ won an easy victory on the 13th of May, 1533, 
at Lauffen, over Philip Prince Palatine, Ferdinand's general, 
after which almost the whole of WUrtenburg submitted to its 
former Duke. The Elector of Saxony and his cousin Duke 
George now intervened, and by their mediation the Peace of 
Cadan was signed in June, 1534. By this peace, in addition to 
the recognition of Ulrich's restoration on the one hand and of 
Ferdinand's election as King of the Romans on the other, the 
jurisdiction of the Imperial Chamber in ecclesiastical matters 
was abolished. 

We must now retrace our steps a little to notice the remarkable 
revolution which had been taking place in Westphalia.^ The 
history of Miinster during this period presents a striking example 
of the way in which new doctrines, themselves moderate, attain 
extravagant and unnatural development in the hands of the 
fanatical and the ignorant. The worst features of the Peasants' 
War are revived, with something of grotesque exaggeration, in 
the Anabaptist Reign of Terror. The Reformation had been 
preached in Miinster by a certain Bernard Rothman in 1532.^ 
His oratory was successful enough to alarm the Bishop, and he 
was offered a sum of money to leave the neighbourhood. He 
took the money and went away for a short time, but soon returned 
and obtained greater influence than ever. Many of the chief men 
who still adhered to the Roman Church left the City. Soon after- 
wards several Anabaptists arrived, whose frantic preaching 
converted even Rothman, and soon gave them the chief power. 
Their two prophets, Jan Matthys, and Jan Bockelson, better 
known as John of Leiden, became the leaders in a tumult which 
broke out in December, 1533, and ended in the precipitate flight 
of still more of the citizens, and the establishment of an Ana- 
baptist oligarchy, of which Rothman, who had now become a 
warm supporter of those doctrines, was one of the directors. A 
burgher named Knipperdolling was also one of the leaders, and 
private letters were sent by him and Rothman to the Anabaptists 
in the neighbouring cities, inviting them to come to Miinster as 
quickly as possible, and promising them ten times as much as 
they left behind. The Anabaptists were now supreme, and every- 
one who did not profess their opinions was driven out. The 
Bishop found it necessary to besiege the city, and, having 
encamped in the neighbourhood with a large army, completed the 
investment in April and May. The besieged, however, had an 

63 Sleidan lib. ix. 

«* Sleidan lib. x. : Robertson Charles V. book 5 : Mosheim, Eccl. Hist. vol. 4. 
ch. 5 (Edit. 1782). Ranke, book vi. ch. 9. 

^ Sleidan lib. x. 




abundance of stores, and there was no hope of an immediate 
reduction of so strong a town. The prophet, Matthys, was their 
ruler, and Knipperdolling was dignified with the title of Consul. 
The former did not enjoy his authority long, for a few days after 
the beginning of the siege he rushed through the streets at full 
speed, armed with a long pike, and, declaring that he 
had been divinely instructed to attack the enemy's camp, 
led a few men forth, but was immediately slain by the outposts. 
John of Leiden succeeded to his post and married his widow. 
Knipperdolling now declared that the time was come for the high 
things to be abased and the humble exalted and gave a practical 
explanation of his meaning by ordering all the churches to be 
demoHshed. John of Leiden followed this up by telHng him to 
resign the title of consul and become the hangman, to which he 
joyfully agreed. Meanwhile the besiegers had received con- 
siderable accessions of strength. The Duke of Cleves had sent 
some troops and cannon, and the Archbishop of Cologne brought 
similar aid. All attempts to take the city by storm failed. The 
defenders were animated by the wildest enthusiasm, and even 
children were taught to use the bow with deadly effect from the 
walls. The Bishop accordingly had seven forts built to surround 
the city and cut off all communication from the inhabitants. 

John of Leiden first placed the government in the hands of 
twelve men and not long afterwards declared that it was revealed 
to him from heaven that the saints should choose as man}' wives 
as they pleased. This revelation was not accepted by such of 
the citizens as still retained some semblance of sanity, and this 
party seized the Prophet and Knipperdolling and, had it been 
more numerous, would probably have prevented their doing any 
more mischief. But the mob easily rescued their prophets, and in 
revenge barbarously murdered some fifty of the moderate party. 
On the 23rd of June a goldsmith named Dusentschuer declared 
that John' of Leiden was by divine revelation ordained to be 
Monarch of the World, an event which the Prophet of course 
declared himself to have known though not announced some time 
previously. The twelve rulers were consequently discharged 
from their offices and the king began to assume great dignity and 
pomp. He adopted all the ensigns of royalty, and whenever he 
appeared abroad was attended by a brilliant following, two boys 
walking behind him, one of whom carried a bible and a crown, 
the other a drawn sword. His principal wife had similar state. 
Three times a week he sat upon a lofty throne in the market 
place, to administer justice. Knipperdolling was still more 
extravagant, and indulged in blasphemies and indecencies which 
it would be impossible to relate. As the siege continued and 
famine began to prevail in the city several attempts were made 
to assassinate or capture the Prophet. But by far the greater 
part of the inhabitants firmly believed in him and he had little 


difficulty in retaining his ascendency. The preachers continued 
to issue books in defence of their opinions, which mi^ht have 
been listened to if their practices had been less licentious. 
They proclaimed the principle that goods should be held in 
common and maintained many curious notions ' Concerning 
the Mysteries of Scripture'.^ As the situation of the besiegers 
became more hopeless, John of Leiden became more wild in 
his proceedings. One of his wives presumed to doubt that it 
was the will of Heaven that the King should live in the greatest 
luxury while so terrible a famine was raging. John took her 
into the market place and himself beheaded her, and danced 
round her body with his other wives, exhorting the starving 
multitude to join him in his mirth. The besiegers would no 
longer receive the fugitives who managed to escape from the 
city, and entered into secret negociations with some of the 
citizens for a surrender. The King was very vigilant however 
and for some time prevented any surprise. At length, on the 
24th of June, 1535, an assault was made, under the direction of 
two deserters, which proved successful, and after some severe 
fighting in the streets the town was taken, the King and 
Knipperdolling captured, and Rothman killed. John of Leiden 
was carried about for some time as a kind of show. He was at 
first obdurate in his opinions but after a while appeared to be 
convinced of his errors, and confessed his wickedness. Knipper- 
dolling, who was far more ignorant, remained more firm. After 
six months they were both executed in a horrible manner and 
their bodies hung up in cages of iron, which are still suspended 
on the tower of Saint Lambert's Church at Miinster. After the 
bishop had regained his authority the Catholic worship was 
immediately re-established, the inhabitants became remarkable 
for their rigid and intolerant adherence to the old forms, and 
MUnster was soon known as the most ultra-Catholic city in 
Germany. A reaction so marked is hardly to be wondered at. 
Complete submission to lawful government must have seemed 
the surest way to prevent the recurrence of scenes so terrible. 
The political significance of this Reign of Terror may be dis- 
missed with a word: it consists rather in an indication of the 
deep-rooted and most irregular influence of the revolutionary 
idea than in its bearing on the actual course of the national 
struggle for reform. Under all its crimes and extravagances and 
follies we see the same principle in this Anabaptist kingdom 
that was acting in religion, in politics, and in learning, throughout 
the whole of Europe. 

To return to the Protestant princes. They renewed in 1535 

the League of Schmalkalden and extended it for ten years. The 

Elector of Saxony and the Landgrave of Hessen were appointed 

to direct it, each for six months, with the title of Captain-General. 

^ The title of a book they published: see Sleidan lib. x. 

' i' 


Several cities and princes joined the league and the King of 
England styled himself its protector. A fixed contribution of 
men and arms from each member was arranged for, and the 
organisation was completed on a more settled basis. At the 
same time the publication of the ' Articles of Schmalkalden,' 
which had been drawn up under the influence of Luther by order 
of John Frederic of Saxony, and were much more strongly 
worded than the Confession of Augsburg, served to point out 
that a peaceable arrangement of the religious diff'erences was 
extremely improbable. 

Recent events had greatly strengthened the Protestant party. 
In 1536 Louis, Elector Palatine, died, and his successor, 
Frederic H., was devoted to the Lutheran faith. Joachim L of 
Brandenburg, — " not a beautiful man when you cross him over- 
much "^^ — who had been one of the warmest defenders of the 
Roman Church, died the year before the Palatine, and his son 
Joachim IL not long afterwards publicly adopted the Augsburg 
Confession. An event still more important was the conversion of 
Hermann, Archbishop-Elector of Cologne. He was not the first 
ecclesiastical convert of eminence — the Bishops of Lubek, Camin, 
and Schwerin, had previously embraced the Reformation. But the 
significance of such a step on the part of an Archbishop, who was 
also an Elector, can hardly be overrated. Not only did the 
Lutheran doctrines receive immediate and widespread extension 
through the encouragement which the Archbishop gave to their 
introduction into his dominions, but the importance of the pro- 
ceeding is patent as aff'ording a precedent for the retention of 
temporal power that depended upon an ecclesiastical office after 
the religious obligations had been repudiated. Should such a 
precedent be allowed there was no reason why the ecclesiastical 
princes by becoming Protestants should not found an hereditary 
temporal sovereignty. In addition to the alarming prospect 
which this event presented to the Catholics, they found them- 
selves in a minority in the Electoral College. The Electors of 
Brandenburg, Saxony, Cologne, and the Palatinate were Pro- 
testants, and the Archbishop-Elector of Mainz had begun to show 
*' inclinations towards Luther, even of a practical sort."^ Besides 
the changes which the last few years had made among the 
Electors, the Catholic party sustained a severe loss in 1539, by the 
death on the 14th of April, of Duke George of Saxony, who, as 
head of the younger branch of the family, possessed large 
dominions,^^ including towns so important as Dresden and 
Leipsic. His brother Henry, who succeeded him, immediately 
procured the assistance of Luther in the introduction of the 
reformed doctrines into his territory. 

^ Carlyle, Friedrich II., book iii., ch. g. 

® Carlyle, book iii., ch. 4. 

* He was Margrave of Meissen and Thuringia, 



During all this time the tranquillity of Germany was undis- 
turbed ; the Protestants had everything to gain by the mainten- 
ance of the Peace of Nurnberg, and Charles V. was not yet pre- 
pared to annul it. He had formed an alliance, however, among 
the Catholic princes in 1538, but it was neither strong nor sincere. 
The death of Duke George and the irresolution of the Archbishop 
of Mainz renderered it still less effectual. The Emperor now 
endeavoured to secure himself against the Protestant princes, by 
making separate treaties with some of them. Under the cover of 
his unfriendly relations with the Duke of Cleves he entered into 
agreements with Joachim II. and Philip of Hessen, which were 
based upon the principle of mutual concession and seemed to 
offer some security for the maintenance of peace. The Landgrave 
was the more ready to conclude this treaty, as the odium to which 
his recent bigamy had exposed him rendered him doubtful of the 
assistance of his Protestant allies in case the Imperial Chamber 
should take up the matter as a civil offence. Ferdinand, as well 
as his brother, was persistent in his endeavours to produce a 
reconciliation between the parties. Religious conferences were 
held in 1540 and in 1541, but they utterly failed to discover any 
means of re-union. In the several Diets that took place during 
these years the peace of Niirnberg was renewed and the Empire 
remained tranquil, Charles showing the greatest anxiety for the 
preservation of order. This, no doubt, was owing in a great 
measure to his own difficulties — the wars in Algiers, in Hungary, 
with Francis I. and with William of Cleves, — but the Emperor 
could hardly have entertained any idea of immediate attack upon 
the Protestants. A further alliance was at this time negociated 
by the suggestion of a marriage between a son of the Saxon 
Elector and a daughter of the King of the Romans. As soon, 
however, as the Peace of Crespy^° had freed the Emperor from 
foreign war he turned his attention to the great national question, 
still unsettled, and renewed his pressure upon the Pope to call a 
General Council. In this he was at last successful, and the Pope 
summoned a Council, to meet at Trent on March 15, 1545.'^ No 
sooner was this known than the Lutheran princes protested 
against it and declared that they would neither attend its sittings 
nor be bound by its decisions. They demanded instead a Na- 
tional Council, which the Emperor declared he had no power to 
call. Everything pointed towards a civil war. This had been 
already foreshadowed by the disturbances in Brunswick, where 
the Duke had been oppressing the City of Brunswick and uttering 
alarming threats against Hamburg, Hanover, Menden and Bre- 
men, which towns he ordered to renounce what he termed *' the 
conspiracy of Schmalkalden."^^ The Landgrave of Hessen came 
to their assistance, and having offered through his son-in-law, 

70 September 18, 1544. 


71 It was not opened, however, till Dec. 13. 

72 Sleidan. 


Duke Moritz of Saxony (the son and successor of Duke Henry), 
conditions of peace which were not accepted, attacked the Duke 
of Brunswick with a superior force and surrounded him near Nord- 
heim, where he compelled him to surrender. The Duke and his 
son were then carried off" and confined in one of the Landgrave's 
Castles. This seizure of a Catholic prince seemed not to concern 
the Emperor much ; he took no notice of it beyond a request that 
the captives should be treated according to their rank. But the 
calm only preceded a storm, the first of those terrible hurricanes 
which swept over Germany in the next century, and finally left her 
— apparently at least — in a state of moral and physical ruin, at 
the peace of Westphalia. As a story, the Schmalkaldic War does 
not possess the interest of the Bauernkrieg, or of the Thirty 
Years' War. But it is an important phase of the great Revolu- 
tion. The time had come when the Reformation was to be the 
cause of a deadly struggle among the German princes — unavoid- 
able perhaps, but utterly destructive of all chances of national 
unity as well as entirely opposed to the whole teaching of the 
great preacher of the reformed faith who had just then passed 
away. Luther died on the i6th of February, 1546, and his death 
seemed the signal for the beginning of the sanguinary contest. 
The time had indeed arrived for Charles to strike. The League 
of Schmalkalden had become isolated and was on the point of 
dissolution ; the ten years for which it had been renewed were 
expired, and no steps had been taken to continue it. The princes 
who had become Protestants since 1535 had not joined it; and 
the Emperor had how induced them to withhold their assistance 
from it. 

The Palatine and the Elector of Brandenburg had been 
pledged to neutrality ; and Moritz of Saxony was similarly 
engaged. This distinguished man now comes before us for the 
first time, and in a manner very typical of what seem the incon- 
sistencies of his character. The task of reconciling his sincere 
religious views with his political conduct at this period and 
during the subsequent war may well be left unattempted here. 
It will suffice for our purpose to remember that the young Duke 
approached more nearly to greatness than any other Protestant 
prince then living in Germany. Prompt, energetic, and far- 
seeing, he possessed many of the requisites for a great general 
and a great diplomatist, and there was a grandeur and nobility 
in his character that seemed a few years later to make him the 
real hero of the hour. 

The want of any political bond of union was severely felt by 
the Protestants: had they possessed anything of the kind the war 
might have had a very diff'erent conclusion. As it was, the 
Catholics were thoroughly prepared : not so the Protestants.- 
The veil that had for a long time covered the Emperor's inten- 
tions was suddenly withdrawn by the publication of a Papal Bull 



which announced the alliance between the Empire and the Holy 
See ' for the purification of the Lord's vineyard.' The Pro- 
testants at once flew to arms. The first army in motion was 
that of the cities, which was commanded by Sebastian Schartlin, 
a brave and experienced general, who had served in all the recent 
wars and had been present at the battle of Pavia and the storm- 
ing of Rome.'^^ His plans were energetic and able, but the 
alliance of Bavaria and the Emperor, of which he was ignorant 
until too late, prevented their execution and obliged him to retire 
from the Lech. A second plan — of intercepting the Italian army 
before its junction with the Imperial forces — was frustrated by 
the folly of his superiors ; and he was compelled to await the 
arrival of the Elector and the Landgrave in the town of 
Donauworth, which he had captured. These princes, who had 
recently been placed under the Ban of the Empire, arrived not 
long after, and, with the Wiirtenberg contingent under Count 
Heideck, brought the total of the Protestant forces up to nearly 
50,000 men. Charles V. had hardly more than 34,000, but his 
inferiority in numbers was more than compensated by the 
disagreements that occurred between the leaders, of whom there 
were too many, on the other side. Had they immediately 
attacked the Emperor the superior numbers of the Protestants 
might have given them a victory which would have secured the 
objects which as it was were not attained for the next ten years. 
However, time was lost in manoeuvres which were of no service 
and allowed the junction between the Emperor and the Papal 
troops under Ottavio Farnese to be effected. When this had 
taken place the Imperialists marched to Ingoldstadt, and took up 
a position previously occupied by the Protestants. The latter at 
length seemed determined upon an attack. The Landgrave 
forded the Danube and possessed himself of a high piece of 
ground called the Beacon Hill, whence his cannon commanded 
and did much execution in the enemy's camp. He now advised 
an immediate attack, which with remarkable folly was rejected by 
a council of war. The Emperor, in consequence, had time to 
fortify his camp, which gave an opportunity to the disunited 
leaders of the Protestants for another argument. They finally 
retired with their whole army to attempt to intercept some 
succours that were coming from the Netherlands under Count 
Buren. In this again they failed. In fact the history of the 
year is but a chronicle of their failures. 

While the Elector John Frederic was succeeding so ill on the 
Danube his own dominions had been invaded by the Hungarians 
and Bohemians of King Ferdinand, between whom and Duke 
Moritz an agreement was shortly afterwards made by which the 
latter took possession of the principal cities in the Electorate and 
forced them to swear allegiance to himself. The only possible 

73 See Seckendorf, lib. ii. 6g. 



defence for this conduct, which seems justly liable to be con- 
demned as the extreme of treachery towards his cousin, is that 
offered by Moritz himself in his manifesto,*^ in which he declared 
that he was resolved to remain firm in defence of his religion and 
had no other aim but to prevent the Electorate falling into the 
hands of strangers. However he did not long retain possession 
of the country, for the Elector, returning, drove him out of it very 
quickly. In every other quarter Charles V. had been successful. 
Even Augsburg had banished Schartlin and paid an enormous 
fine. A letter from the Emperor had brought Ulrich of Wiirten- 
burg to his knees. After much humiliation, and at considerable 
sacrifice, he procured a pardon. One cannot help wishing that 
Ulrich von Hutten, who had so admirably, if so savagely, 
chronicled the early life of this Duke, had been alive to write a 
Philippic on his conduct at this time. 

When the spring came Charles proceeded to carry on his con- 
quest to North Germany. The ceaseless anxiety had told 
remarkably upon the health of the Emperor. He had become 
quite lame, his voice was scarcely audible, his hair had turned 
gray, and his face had assumed a deathly pallor. The weakness 
of his body had also begun to affect his mind, and to oppress him 
with the deep melancholy that continued rapidly to grow upon 
him. At present, however, sad though he was, his spirit was still 
firm and his courage undaunted, and he was determined to bring 
the war speedily to a conclusion by the discomfiture of his 
enemies. He accordingly marched into Meissen, and pursued the 
Elector of Saxony, who was retreating to Wittenberg, on the other 
side of the Elbe. He decided to press on an engagement, as his 
forces were four times as numerous as the Saxons, and searched 
for a ford to cross and attack them, for the Elector's army being 
slightly in advance destroyed all the bridges. When both armies 
had reached Miihlberg,"^^ the Elector halted and lined the bank of 
the Elbe with infantry and field-pieces, to defend his bridge of 
boats, and to prevent the Emperor crossing. However, a body of 
about a thousand Spanish infantry plunged into the river, and 
crossed in face of a furious fire, capturing several of the boats 
which the Saxons had attempted to destroy, and constructing a 
bridge over which the rest of the infantry could pass. The 
Elector of Saxony, who was listening at this time to a sermon, as 
soon as he heard of what had taken place, ordered a hasty retreat 
to Wittenberg, hoping to escape before the Imperialist infantry 
had crossed the Elbe. But the Emperor, seeing that everything 
depended upon his speed, having discovered a ford, passed over with 
his cavalry, and came upon the Saxons about three miles the 
other side of the river. As the Imperialists thus were without 
either infantry or artillery the Elector might have been able to 
defeat them if his own army had not been scattered about between 

7* Sleidan. 76 April 24, 1547. 

II' ^ 


the Elbe and Wittenberg. John Frederic himself directed his 
troops from a carriage at first, but having obtained a horse strong 
enough to carry him he mounted it, and rode into the thick of the 
battle, where Charles was also fighting at the head of his Spanish 
cuirassiers. Success was not long in declaring for the Im- 
perialists : the Elector was wounded, and soon afterwards forced 
to surrender, and his troops were utterly routed.'^^ He was 
brought before the Emperor, who received him coldly and haughtily, 
and committed him to the charge of the Duke of Alba. A few 
days afterwards sentence of death was passed against him, but 
on the intercession of the Elector of Brandenburg, and on the 
most severe conditions, Charles consented to spare his life. He 
was obliged to renounce the Electoral dignity and his dominions 
for ever. He was treated with great courtesy. The Emperor 
also displayed much consideration in his behaviour towards the 
Protestant cities he had captured. So rapid had been his conquest 
of Saxony that this German Caesar with some truth said, " I came, 
I saw, and God conquered." 

He now turned towards the Landgrave, who, seeing no hope of 
deliverance, sought the intercession of Moritz (who had received 
the Electorate of Saxony, with which he was solemnly invested 
on the 24th of February, 1548), and of the Elector of Brandenburg. 
His submission was accepted, and the story of his subsequent 
imprisonment is well known." 

Charles V., at this moment, had reached the summit of his 
power in Germany, but the very acts which seemed calculated to 
maintain him contained the seeds that produced his fall. The 
imprisonment of the Elector and the Landgrave appeared to 
secure him from Protestant attack until the religious settlement of 
the nation should have been made. The elevation of Duke 
Moritz, which he owed entirely to the Emperor, seemed to secure 
his fidelity, but in reality the means of his elevation, the plans 
which the Emperor was now proceeding to execute, and the im- 
prisonment of the Landgrave, if not that of the Elector, had com- 
pletely alienated Moritz from his benefactor. The danger to the 
Catholic majority lay in this ambitious and able prince, on whom 
the future of Protestantism in Germany now depended. 

76 This sketch of the battle, which differs shghtly from the usual accounts, is 
based upon that of Sleidan. 

■^7 There is a graphic sketch in Carlyle's Friedrich II., which everyone knows 
(book iii., c. 10), but there seems little ground for the story of the quibble about 
' ohne einigen Gelangniss." See Robertson Charles V. (vol. iii. p. 423 edit 
1782), and Menzel Neuere Gesch. der Deutschen (B. ii. s. 94). 








The conclusion of the Schmalkaldic War left Germany at the 
feet of Charles V. Yet he showed no desire to make himself an 
absolute Monarch, but seemed anxious for a pacific termination of 
the religious troubles on a basis conformable to the ancient 
constitution of the Empire. There is no reasan to doubt his real 
desire for the welfare of his people. Sincere Catholic as he was, 
he may fairly be praised for toleration rather than blamed for 
bigotry. It was no fault of his that no conclusion of this gigantic 
revolution could be found in his lifetime : it was his misfortune to 
rule over so large an Empire at so critical a period. It is useless, 
though tempting, to speculate on what might have been the 
history of the Reformation if Charles V. had been able to give all 
his energies to Germany. For a man who governed so vast a 
dominion it was impossible to control that mighty movement. 

The first important event after the battle of Miihlberg was the 
meeting of the Diet at Augsburg in 1548, which the Emperor 
attended in person. All attempts to obtain a satisfactory solution 
of the religious difficulties at the Council of Trent having failed, 
Charles V. decided to crush the schism in Germany by his own 
authority. Accordingly he ordered the Bishop of Naumburg, a 
Catholic of the old school, Michael Helding, Grand Vicar of 
Mainz, a moderate man of the opinions of Erasmus, and Johanu 
Islebius Agricola, the court preacher of Joachim II. of Brandenburg, 
to draw up some articles that should be accepted as a compromise 
until the calling of a Council which should be acknowledged by 
both parties. They agreed upon a declaration which from its 
temporary provisions became known as The Interim, in which 
all the cardinal doctrines and ceremonies of the Roman Church 
were maintained, but the marriage of the clergy was permitted by 
dispensation, and it was decided that the reception of the 
Eucharist in both kinds should be allowed to the laity. The 
Emperor ordered the articles to be read to the Diet, and, probably 
by a preconcerted arrangement, no sooner had he finished the 
speech in which he recommended their acceptance than the Arch- 
bishop of Mainz sprang up and declared the Diet's submission to 
the Decree.'® The Emperor chose to consider this a full ratifi- 
cation of ' The Interim ' and immediately began to put it into 
execution. Many of the princes accepted it, most of them through 
compulsion. But it pleased no one. The general feeling of the 
nation was tersely expressed in the rough distich 

'• Das Interim 
Hat den Schalk hinter ihm." 

The Protestants regarded it as a secret attempt to re-establish 

78 Sleidan. 

^ .-.< 


Romanism in their dominions by degrees — the thin end of the 
wedge. The Catholics had the authority of the Pope for re- 
jecting it altogether. But its promulgation caused a temporary 
lull in the political world. It is true Moritz of Saxony refused 
from the first to receive it, but no attempt was made to force him 
to compliance. So two years passed away. They were years of 
increasing discontent among all classes in Germany. The 
Emperor was absent in the Netherlands : the country was over- 
run by Spanish soldiers, whose insolence and rapacity excited the 
greatest indignation : above all, the religious grievances seemed 
further than ever from a satisfactory settlement. At the Diet 
held in 1550 Duke Moritz uttered a bold declaration of his 
opinions, which could not but suggest a coming storm. He 
desired a review of all the religious disputes from the beginning, 
and demanded that " the divines of the Augsburg confession 
should not only be heard but also have deliberative and decisive 
voices : that the Pope should submit to the Council and not 
preside at it, and release the Bishops from their oaths, that they 
might speak with greater freedom. '"^^ The Emperor seemed 
blind to his danger : perhaps he thought that Moritz was not in 
earnest. At any rate he trusted him still further by giving him 
the command of the troops sent to reduce Magdeburg. That 
city had been one of the first to receive the Lutheran doctrines, 
and had remained firm ever since in those opinions. It had 
refused to accept The Interim, and all attempts to reduce it to 
obedience had hitherto failed. Duke George of Mecklenburg had 
defeated the citizens in the open country, but as soon as they 
were returned behind their walls he could make no impression upon 
them. But in the hands of Elector Moritz things might take a 
different course. Yet it was not so. He had a large army — which 
he managed to be continually increasing — but he did little with it. 
He prevented any succour from without, and defeated Count 
Heideck and Albert of Mansfeld, who were attempting to relieve 
the city, but the citizens had made a sally in which they had 
captured George of Mecklenburg, and their vigilance showed no 
signs of relaxation. The siege was conducted in most tardy 
fashion. Finally Moritz offered them terms so advantageous that 
they were joyfully accepted, and the Imperialist troops entered the 
city on the 7th of November, 1551. 

Meanwhile the Elector had been making alliances with the 
King of Denmark and several German princes as well as with 
Henry II. of France, to whose Court he sent his friend Albe'rt of 
Brandenburg-Culmbach, the son of the Casimir who had put down 
the Peasants' War in Franconia. He further engaged many 
of the Wiirtenburg troops and their leader. Count Heideck. He 
had for some time been interceding with the Emperor for the 
release of his father-in-law, the Landgrave of Hessen. He now 

79 Sleidan. 





reiterated his demand in a more menacing tone. All his plans 
were laid, and he was secured by a treaty with Henry II., which 
provided for an invasion of Germany by the French, who were to 
receive as payment Cambrai, Toul, Metz and Verdun. He also 
entered into a close alliance with the Landgrave's sons. But he 
did not even yet throw off the mask : he sent instructions to his 
envoys at Trent up to the very moment of his declaration of war, 
and even pretended to be going there himself. At last, at the 
beginning of April, he formed a junction before Augsburg with 
the Hessians under the Landgrave's son, and with the troops of 
the Margrave Albert of Culmbach. The city opened its gates to 
him and he entered in triumph. He restored the full freedom of 
Protestant worship, as he had done in all the towns through which 
he had passed. He published a declaration addressed to the 
States of the Empire, entreating their assistance, and explaining 
his objects to be the restoration of freedom of worship, the liberation 
of the Landgrave, and the expulsion of the foreign soldiers. His 
success caused the greatest terror among the Catholics. The 
Council of Trent broke up in confusion. The Emperor was at 
Innspruck, without men or money. After a vain attempt to escape 
to the Netherlands, he managed by a hasty flight at night over 
the Alps to reach Carinthia in safety. His capture, say some 
writers, was only prevented by a mutiny among the Saxon 
soldiers : others tell us of a saying of Moritz — " that he had no 
cage for so large a bird." After this there was no more to be 
done. A truce followed by a peace was inevitable. Never had 
there been a victory more complete or more sudden. Moritz was 
the saviour of Protestant Germany, and the cost at which he had 
achieved so great a success was the most trifling. John Frederic 
of Saxony had been released before the flight from Innspruck, 
and the Landgrave also was now set at liberty. The Peace of ^ 
Passau, which was concluded on the 31st of July, 1532, gave 
freedom of worship to the Lutherans, and decreed the summon- 
ing of a Diet for the redress of political and religious grievances. 
Tranquillity at length seemed to be attained, and the prospects 
of its continuance were hopeful. The Emperor had received 
too severe a blow to venture on further encroachments upon 
national liberty. It even seemed that something like unity of 
feeling was beginning to spring up in the nation. The whole 
German people without distinction of creed had welcomed the 
treaty, and that chiefly for the reasons that its main point was 
the exclusion of foreigners. 

But peace was not yet universal. Albert of Brandenburg, who 
was somewhat inappropriately surnamed Alcibiades, and in 
whom Prussian historians have discovered several of the charac- 
teristics of their great Frederic, had been with the King of 
France at his capture of Metz. Not long after the pacification of 
Passau he was with the Emperor at his siege of the same city. 

^ %* 


But he was too restless to be satisfied with the prospect of tran- 
quillity. He began a course of most unjustifiable attacks upon 
the Bishoprics and cities upon the Rhine and the Moselle, 
plundering and burning wherever he went. There was some- 
thing of the old Ritter about his reckless ravages : that he had 
any political — much less religious — object is in the last degree 
improbable. The Protestant princes united with the Catholics 
against him, for the whole nation was indignant that such 'a 
disturbance should be suffered when the prospects of peace were 
so bright. A league was formed, of which the Elector Moritz 
and Duke Henry of Brunswick were the chiefs, and a battle 
occurred at Sievershausen where more than three hundred of the 
nobility were slain. After a long and severe engagement, Albert 
was totally defeated, but not until Moritz of Saxony had re- 
ceived a mortal wound. So, at the very summit of his fortunes, 
and before he had reached middle age, the man to whom 
Germany owed her liberty, and to whom she entrusted the pre- 
servation of order, fell in a comparatively ignoble strife. 
Differently as his character may be regarded, it is impossible to 
avoid an acknowledgment of the genius that animated him. At 
an age when the life of many men is hardly begun, he had 
achieved what foreign kings as well as native princes had in vain 
endeavoured : he had completely disconcerted the plans of one 
of the greatest and ablest monarchs in Europe : he had won 
an important political victory for Protestantism at a time when 
her downfall in Germany seemed inevitable. Brave, handsome, 
courteous, considerate, we cannot wonder that his contemporaries 
should have mingled their admiration for him with something 
of hero-worship, and deplored his loss as a national misfortune.^ 
Happily the good that he did was not all interred with him, but 
lived to produce a peaceable, if temporary, settlement of the great 
religious question. 

On the 26th of September, 1555, the Diet at Augsburg published 
the Religious Peace which marks the conclusion of the first 
period of the Reformation in Germany by the legal recognition of 
the Protestant States. The principle upon which this peace was 
based—'* cujus regio, ejus religio "—may not have been of the 
highest morality, but was certainly in advance of all previous 
toleration. That those who did not hold the religion of their 
prince might leave his dominions in peace was a real security 
against persecution. Of course the anomalies of the arrangement 
and the confusion that was likely to arise from it are patent. But 
it must not be forgotten that as far as its religious aspect was 
concerned it was in every way favourable to the Lutherans. Nor 
must its political benefits be undervalued. It gave each party an 
equal number of seats in the Imperial Council,®^ and thus furnished 

^ See Sleidan's account of his funeral. 

81 That is to say in so far as it was a ratification of the Peace of Passau, by 
which that provision had been made. 







some security for the balance of political power. But its weak- 
ness lay in the absolute barrier that it presented to an}^hing like 
national unity. Its whole tendency was to create states entirely 
cut off from each other by religion. And the division of political 
power just mentioned stifled the growth of political liberty, and 
confirmed the slavery of the people. 

The history of the Reformation in Germany cannot satisfactorily 
be regarded except as a whole : the miserable tragedy of the 
Thirty Years' War is an essential part of the tale. But it is far 
better to drop the curtain now, when something of religious 
liberty has been obtained, than to witness the horrors of the last 
act. So then let us leave it, as one by one the striking figures 
have passed off the stage and one only waits for this Peace to 
follow them. Luther had not seen the triumph of his followers. 
But John Frederic closed his eyes upon the achievement of what 
had been the aim of his life. Moritz died, not too young for 
fame, with the words "God will come" on his lips, as if he 
foresaw the dawning of a brighter day for his country. 

There is but one of the great actors left. — Charles V. witnessed 
in the Proclamation of Augsburg the complete failure of his 
policy, and then passed away from the world to the seclusion that 
so strangely and calmly concluded his " strange eventful history." 

And so the tide has spent itself, and the ebb bears away these 
heroes from our sight, while we look eagerly into the future for 
the wave that announces the coming of Gustavus Adolphus and 
of Wallenstein. 

Upstone and Doe, Printers, Queen Street, Oxford. 

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